Journalism Awards & Prizes

WitnessLA wins first prize for child welfare series at LA Press Club Awards!!!

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

We are delighted to report that, on Sunday, June 23, at the SoCal Journalism Awards put on by the LA Press Club, WitnessLA’s Assistant Editor Taylor Walker won the first prize trophy in the category of Health Reporting for her important multi-part series, “Punishing Families: The Need To Reimagine Child Welfare In LA County” 

In their comment on the series the judges wrote, “Compelling reporting about changes needed in the LA County Child Welfare system through the lens of parents and children impacting certain groups significantly more than others.”

For those who’ve not read the Taylor Walker’s Punishing Families series, we recommend you take a look. In short, it explores the racial and economic disparities in Los Angeles County’s child welfare system, and the impact of surveillance and separation on kids and parents.

In Part 1, the series examines the allegation most frequently used to entangle kids in LA’s child welfare system — “general neglect” —in which poverty or just low income is often wrongly perceived as neglect.

The series in general shares stories of families in LA County communities most prone to child welfare intervention. Readers meet children and parents who were torn apart over drug use (even when minor), or mental health challenges, and domestic violence — all reasons for removal under the “general neglect” category. 

Walker’s analysis of the county’s data in Part 2 revealed that children in zip codes with low median incomes were far more likely to come into contact with the child welfare system for neglect, and subsequently to be removed from their homes, than would kids in wealthier zip codes right next door.

More to come

Sunday night’s prize was for Part 1 and 2 of the series, linked above, as those were the chapters that were published in 2023.

Yet Walker has continued the Punishing Families series, and in Part 3 you’ll find never-before published data that Walker obtained from LA County’s Department of Children and Family Services, which shows that social workers investigate Black families for allegations of general neglect at rates greatly disproportionate to their share of the general population.

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